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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Metaphysics: Nothing is better than a dry martini

Metaphysics: Nothing is better than a dry martini

Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
I’ve had a few questions regarding “reification,” and have pulled in the following from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.o...­

“Reification (also known as hypostatisation or concretism) is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it represented a concrete, real event or physical entity. In other words, it is the error of treating as a "real thing" something which is not a real thing, but merely an idea. …”

“…reification is generally accepted in literature and other forms of discourse where reified abstractions are understood to be intended metaphorically, for example, "Justice is blind." But the use of reification in logical arguments is usually regarded as a mistake (fallacy). For example, "Justice is blind; the blind cannot read printed laws; therefore, to print laws cannot serve justice."


When one person "holds another's affection," affection is being reified.

"The universe will not allow the human race to die out by accident." (attributes intention to the universe)

"Good and evil are forces ruling the universe." (attributes motive to the abstract ideas of good and evil)

A man walks into a bar. The bartender asks him what he wants. "Nothing," he says. "So why did you come in here for nothing?" "Because nothing is better than a dry martini."

“The process of reifying abstractions is proper only in the moral realm, i.e., only in regard to human character. Here, it is not a metaphor, a fantasy, or contradiction of reality—it is possible in fact, it is a model.”
—Ayn Rand, The Journals of Ayn Rand, Part 5–Final Years.

Stay tuned.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 874
As we previously discussed, “reification” is the regarding of an abstraction as a “concrete” thing. Thus, "reification" is also known as “concretization."

Certain types of abstractions do refer to certain types of entities, of course. For example, it is appropriate to treat the abstraction “table” as referring to a type of "concrete" thing. Certain types of abstractions refer to classifications of actions of entities, which actions are not proper to treat as "concrete" things separable from an entity. For example, the abstraction “flying” cannot be treated as referring to a "concrete" thing apart from a bird or an airplane, for example.

Ayn Rand identified the fallacy of
“the Reification of the Zero. It consists of regarding "nothing" as a thing, as a special, different kind of existent. (For example, see Existentialism.) This fallacy breeds such symptoms as the notion that presence and absence, or being and non-being, are metaphysical forces of equal power, and that being is the absence of non-being. E.g., "Nothingness is prior to being." (Sartre) …”
—Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Axiomatic Concepts (original emphasis).

“Nothing” or “zero” only has meaning with reference to the absence of a particular dimension or quantity of a real thing. For example, to say: “There is nothing in my glass!” should be understood to mean there is no beer where I want it—but my glass instead has air in it. The relevant dimension is the quantity—in this case absence—of beer.

Regarding “reification,” Ayn Rand also noted:
“The reification of "forces" of nature is the rebellion against (or ignorance of) the law of identity: it separates entities from actions, implying that actions are not caused by the nature of the entities that act, but are caused by some outside power. For example: "Death takes a holiday" implies that death is not inherent in the nature of living entities. Or: "Spring brings flowers"—implying that the growth of flowers is not inherent in nature. This is an example of the inability to grasp that existence exists.
The process of reifying abstractions is proper only in the moral realm, i.e., only in regard to human character. Here, it is not a metaphor, a fantasy, or contradiction of reality—it is possible in fact, it is a model.”
—Ayn Rand, The Journals of Ayn Rand, Part 5–Final Years.

How is it possible and proper to concretize abstract human character? I think the following example from Ayn Rand discussing characterization illustrates how to reify human character as a model:
The old "Perry Mason" (which is now billed as the real "Perry Mason") was a habit-forming experience. I was an addict; I saw most of the episodes two or three times, in various reruns, and never felt bored. The soul of the show was Raymond Burr. He gave such an inspired performance that it lifted, illuminated and imparted meaning to all the rest. His Perry Mason had one dominant characteristic: intelligence—and, as a consequence: firmness, self-confidence, moral certainty, and, as their consequence, dignity. These qualities are among the hardest to portray; they require esthetic absolutism—a single lapse makes them vanish. To appear authentic, they require the quiet steadiness of understatement; to appear natural, they require unself-consciousness. A hero is not conscious of being heroic: to him, it is just a matter of being himself. Raymond Burr achieved the unusual feat of faultlessly maintaining this kind of characterization through every episode, for nine years.[/quote
—Ayn Rand, The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. II, No. 22 July 30, 1973 “Perry Mason Finally Loses” (original emphasis).
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